Understand this, there will be times of difficulty. Paul wants to emphasise to Timothy that the current difficulties he is facing are not a passing thing, but a characteristic of the age we are in. Perhaps Timothy thinks if he lies low for a while, the storm will pass. Paul wants him under no illusion. Understand this! We are in the last days – Jesus brought the promised new age with him. The old age is passing away and the last days have already dawned. Hebrews begins with “in these last days” and Acts 2 shows us that Joel’s prophecy “In the last days…” is now!
It won’t be continuously, permanently, difficulties – there will be times of difficulty. The Greek word (chalepos) used here basically means “hard to bear” or “hard to deal with” and was used for dangerous wild animals and of the raging sea! The same word was use of the Gadarene demoniac who was so fierce (chalepos), that no-one could pass that way. Note that Jesus breaks in!
The cause of these difficult seasons is people. People who have…
i) bad moral conduct, v.2-4 – lovers of self, rather than of God. Lovers of money, proud, arrogant and so on.
ii) religious observance, v.5 – they look like they are godly, but deny the power of God. It has always been like that. The Old Testament prophet Amos talked of the boom in religion and injustice at the same time (Amos 2:8). Isaiah bemoans the same thing in Isa 1:14-17; Jesus complained of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy (Matt 23:25). Paul is talking of outward religion without the inward power of salvation and life change in the power of the Spirit.
iii) zeal to proselytise v.6-9 – false teachers sell boat-loads of books. Then and now they actively propagate their nonsense. Paul highlights Jannes and Jambres of Moses’ day who opposed Moses (the names aren’t in the Old Testament, but they are mentioned in the Targum). They were magicians in Pharaoh’s court who stood against Moses.
Paul now contrasts all of that with Timothy. “You, however…” Timothy is different, called to stand out for Jesus. We are all called to stand out in the world as different – not letting the world squeeze us into its mould (Romans 12:2), called to stand firm and not be blown off course or swept away by every wind or wave of doctrine coming in (Ephesians 4:14).
Paul’s charge is that all of Scripture is God breathed and profitable; to teach us, to reprove us, to correct us, so that we may be equipped to do what we are meant to be doing. A current wind of doctrine (almost exactly the same as the Marcionite heresy of the third century) is trying to throw out the less palatable bits of Scripture. Paul urges Timothy, and us, to avoid such nonsense.
Be competent and equipped for every good work v.17.